Home / News / India /  'Completely unlikely': Centre on missing Covid deaths in eight states

The Centre on Wednesday refuted a report suggesting Covid deaths higher than what has been recorded so far by the states. In a detailed response, the Health Ministry said that there have been some speculative reports inferring "undercounting of Covid deaths from eight states".

"It is clarified that given the robust and statute-based Death Registration System in India, while some cases could go undetected as per the principles of Infectious Disease and its management, missing out on deaths is completely unlikely," the health ministry said in a statement.

"This could also be seen in the case fatality rate, which as on 31st December 2020 stood at 1.45% and even after an unexpected surge observed in the second wave in April-May 2021, the case fatality rate today stands at 1.34%," it said.

The reporting of daily new cases and deaths in India follows a bottom-up approach, where districts report the number of cases and deaths to the state governments and to the Union Ministry on a continuous basis, the statement stated.

To avoid inconsistency or confusion in the number of deaths being reported, the ministry said, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had in May 2020 issued ‘Guidance for appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’ for correct recording of all deaths by States/UTs as per ICD-10 codes recommended by WHO.

The ministry said it has been repeatedly advising States and UTs for recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines. "States have been advised to conduct thorough audits in their hospitals and report any cases or deaths that could have been missed with a district and date-wise details so as to guide a data-driven decision making," the statement said.

"States consistently reporting lower number of daily deaths has been advised to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Health Ministry writing to the State of Bihar to provide detailed date and district wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths," the ministry added.

The government further stated that in addition to reporting by States/UTs, the robustness of statute based "Civil Registration System (CRS) ensures all births and deaths in the country get registered".

"The CRS follows process of data collection, cleaning, collating and publishing the numbers, which although is a long-drawn process, but ensures no deaths are missed out," it said. It, however, said that because of the expanse and the amplitude of the activity, the numbers are usually published the next year.

The ministry said that during the peak of second wave, the health system across the country was focused on effective clinical management of cases requiring medical help due to which correct reporting and recording of deaths could have been delayed but later was reconciled by the States/UTs.

The reconciling of deaths is still being carried out allaying all speculations of underreporting and undercounting of deaths due to Covid, it said.

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